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Ball Aerospace Demonstrates Ultra-Lightweight Telescope Technologies for DARPA's MOIRE Program

December 6, 2013

BOULDER, Colo.– Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has demonstrated unprecedented telescope technologies using ultra-lightweight polymer membrane optics.

Ball is incrementally demonstrating technology needed to deploy a large, 20-meter-diameter, lightweight space-based telescope in geosynchronous orbit as part of the Membrane Optic Imager Real-time Exploitation (MOIRE) program, led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Most recently, Ball completed construction and testing of one-eighth of a 5-meter-diameter annular segmented telescope to verify functionality of the MOIRE design.
“The ground demonstration substantiates that this innovative technology could work on next generation space telescopes to greatly reduce their costs and enable larger telescopes,” said Ball Aerospace President Rob Strain. “This technology could apply to a wide-range of applications - to provide various forms of information to a multitude of users.”

The lightweight optics developed under the MOIRE program reduces the mass of large aperture telescopes by nearly an order of magnitude compared to those with conventional optics. Since costs scale roughly with spacecraft mass, one key to affordability is minimizing the mass of future space optics. This technology could lend itself to easily stowed configurations for launch within a payload shroud that could be deployed on orbit.

The telescope concept that Ball developed employs thin (less than 1/1000th of an inch) transparent membranes etched with a diffraction pattern as the primary optical element used to focus light.

“This is the first design to use transparent membranes on a large scale,” said Aaron Seltzer, director of Advanced Development for Ball Aerospace’s National Defense business unit. “The result is a telescope with exceptionally low mass per unit of collecting area.”

To produce MOIRE’s optical-quality polymer membranes and the precision etching needed to generate the diffraction pattern, Ball worked with NeXolve and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Ball demonstration telescope uses six primary diffractive optical elements. Additional technologies demonstrated by Ball for the MOIRE telescope include the use of secondary diffractive optical elements to correct chromatic dispersion (e.g. the rainbow effect visible on the reverse side of a DVD); stability of the membranes; and the use of laser metrology and active optics to align the primary and secondary optics.

Following the successful ground-based proof of concept for MOIRE, the Ball team intends to pursue additional funding to move the technology forward.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. For more information, visit www.ballaerospace.com.

Ball Corporation supplies innovative, sustainable packaging solutions for beverage, food and household products customers, as well as aerospace and other technologies and services primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ 15,000 people worldwide and reported 2012 sales of more than $8.7 billion. For more information, visit www.ball.com, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Forward-Looking Statements
This release contains "forward-looking" statements concerning future events and financial performance. Words such as "expects," "anticipates, " "estimates" and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied. The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Key risks and uncertainties are summarized in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including Exhibit 99.2 in our Form 10-K, which are available on our website and at www.sec.gov. Factors that might affect our packaging segments include fluctuation in product demand and preferences; availability and cost of raw materials; competitive packaging availability, pricing and substitution; changes in climate and weather; crop yields; competitive activity; failure to achieve anticipated productivity improvements or production cost reductions; mandatory deposit or other restrictive packaging laws; changes in major customer or supplier contracts or loss of a major customer or supplier; political instability and sanctions; and changes in foreign exchange rates or tax rates. Factors that might affect our aerospace segment include: funding, authorization, availability and returns of government and commercial contracts; and delays, extensions and technical uncertainties affecting segment contracts. Factors that might affect the company as a whole include those listed plus: accounting changes; changes in senior management; the recent global recession and its effects on liquidity, credit risk, asset values and the economy; successful or unsuccessful acquisitions; regulatory action or laws including tax, environmental, health and workplace safety, including U.S. FDA and other actions affecting products filled in our containers, or chemicals or substances used in raw materials or in the manufacturing process; governmental investigations; technological developments and innovations; goodwill impairment; antitrust, patent and other litigation; strikes; labor cost changes; rates of return projected and earned on assets of the company's defined benefit retirement plans; pension changes; uncertainties surrounding the U.S. government budget and debt limit; reduced cash flow; interest rates affecting our debt; and changes to unaudited results due to statutory audits or other effects.

 

 

 

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